Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Prior to a Meeting With Members of Congress
The President. Ladies and gentlemen, just let me make one opening remark, and I'll answer a couple of questions. I want to thank Mr. Michel for once again bringing a group of Republicans in—that he and Mr. Gingrich have arranged for some first-term Republicans to come in and meet with me and Ambassador Kantor and Mr. Frenzel and Mr. Daley. And we're glad to have a chance to discuss NAFTA.
This has been a hard week for us, a hard working week. I have made several congressional meetings, and of course we had the great products fair with Mr. Iacocca. We're trying to work out some of the practical details now on how to deal with the reduction of the tariffs that will come from NAFTA and all that. But I feel much better than I did on Monday about where we are.
I've made, also, a large number of personal phone calls to Democrats this week, and I think we're making some good progress.
Q. Mr. President, do you think you're working hard enough so that Mr. Gingrich would no longer describe your efforts as "pathetic"?
The Vice President. He didn't say that, did he?
Q. He somehow said that, Mr. Vice President. I don't know how. [Laughter]
The President. He didn't——
Q. Could you——
The President. You know, one of the things that I've noticed about Washington is that when you're in a tough fight, you know, some people are always wondering about what happens if you don't make it. I'm just worried about making it. If I make it, I don't care who gets credit for it.
I'll tell you this: I'm trying to win it. And the Democrats have been—some of them have been asking me to ease up. They said every time they turn around, there's another member of the Cabinet in their office, and they're calling them at 11 o'clock at night. So I think we're doing a pretty good job. But if we win, it won't matter.
District of Columbia
Q. What do you think about sending the National Guard, or allowing the National Guard to patrol the city here?
The President. I think it should be reviewed. I've given a lot of thought to it, and I've asked our legal counsel to get with the Justice Department and look into the legality of it and what the legal hurdles are and also what the practical problems are.
Keep in mind, guardsmen are not full-time military people. They do weekend duty, by and large. And except in the summertime, again by and large, they're not on full-time duty. So if you call out the Guard in other times in any substantial numbers, you can be disrupting the normal work lives of a lot of people.
But I'm very sympathetic with the problems that the Mayor has and that Washington has. There are 1,500 shootings here a year now. It's one reason—I certainly hope that we can pass this crime bill in a hurry. If we do, we'll have another 50,000 police officers on the street, and it will reduce the pressure for National Guard officers.
But I will review it, and I think it deserves to be reviewed. It obviously is not a precedent that can easily be confined just to Washington, DC. So there are lots of questions that have to be thought through here. But I want to wait until she sends me the letter and then review the specific proposal.
I hope that we can use this moment to emphasize the need to move on the Brady bill, the crime bill, the question of whether minors should be restricted in the ownership of handguns, the questions of the assault weapons. I think all of these things are part of a rising tide of anger and fear and frustration on the part of the American people that we need to respond to.
Q. Mr. President, are you beginning to be concerned that the sanctions won't work in time for Aristide to go back next Saturday as scheduled?
The President. I've always been concerned about that.
Q. Will it have to be today?
The President. I think that the sanctions are very tough now. And I think what the others have to think about is what it's going to be like to them a few months from now, what it is that they're fighting so hard to hold on to if these sanctions are fully implemented. We never thought that they could have an impact on their own merits within a week, although they are having some impact already. But I think that the reason we got the Governors Island Agreement in the first place is because of the sanctions. I don't know why they thought that they could ignore it and not have sanctions, but I think now they know they can.
Thank you very much.
Visit to Russia
Q. [Inaudible]—going to Moscow?
The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International] asked me a question about it this morning. I still don't believe we've finalized a date. But the Vice President is going next—I mean, not next month but in December. And I plan to go in January, but we haven't finalized the date. We may do it before the day's over. We don't have a date.
Q. It's pretty cold in January.
The President. I've been there in January. It's light about 4 hours a day. Shows you my timing.
NOTE: The President spoke at 9:17 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
William J. Clinton, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Prior to a Meeting With Members of Congress Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/217690